11 December 2016

Two by-elections summed up in two victory speeches

I've been meaning to blog on the Richmond Park by-election and some of the nonsense talked about the Lib Dem victory being a result of a putative 'Progressive Alliance' - whatever that is.  But as usual the estimable Jonathan Calder got there before me.

So instead I thought I'd share the declarations and acceptance speeches of the Richmond Park and Sleaford and North Hykeham by-elections which I think sum up both campaigns and the qualities of the new MPs for both seats.

6 November 2016

Bob Roberts is Donald Trunp

Trump is rushed off the stage in a possible assassination attempt, three days out from polling day. Now where have I heard that before...

25 October 2016

Three questions for Zac Goldsmith

In what appears to be a series of orchestrated announcements between Zac Goldsmith and the Conservative heirarchy we now have a by-election in Richmond Park without an official Tory candidate.  Goldsmith has been installed as the bookies favourite standing as an independent on a straight anti-Heathrow expansion ticket.

But despite his frequent assertation that he is an independently minded MP he votes with the Tories more than nine times out of ten.  In fact since we had a full blooded right wing majority Tory government in 2015 he has rebelled just five times out of 146 votes - less than 3.5% of the time.

So, I have three straightforward questions to ask:

1. If he wins the by-election will he take the Tory whip and, if not, will he caucus with his pal UKIP MP Douglas Carswell?
2. Will he seek the Tory nomination in 2020?
3. Will he back Theresa May in a confidence vote?

22 October 2016

A roasting of Trump from the archive...

With the US presidential election a few weeks away I thought it might be time to dig out of the archive Jonathan Meades's excellent evisceration of Donald Trump from 2011.


20 October 2016

Whither Witney?

Some photos from a visit to Witney earlier in the week on a glorious autumnal day.

A busy weekday morning in the Lib Dem HQ in Corn Street, Witney.

The sort of street that Bob and Thelma from the Likely Lads would live in if it was 250 miles North.

A military transport plane heads towards RAF Fairford (or possibly Brize Norton?)

The sort of idylic rural home that makes producers of TV lifestyle programmes swoon.

So how are the Lib Dems going to do?  The truth is I have no inside information and what follows is hunch and supposition.

Witney is the sort of rock solid seat that always returns Conservatives so given the state of the various opposition parties a comfortable hold should be on the cards.  But the Lib Dems have fought a vigorous campaign from fourth place and are likely to leapfrog Labour and the Greens as a result.  But from my (albeit) brief visit both reds and greens maintain significant pockets of support which means they are unlikely to be squeezed down to the sort of levels that hand the anti-Tory mantle solely to the Lib Dems.  How well the Lib Dems do - and there is some talk that they may even challenge to win - will inevitably depend on how many Green and Labour voters lend their votes to the Lib Dems later today.

But the Tories are sufficently entrenched that how the opposition parties line up shouldn't matter to their prospects of defending the seat.  And in that the election feels very much like another recent high profile Oxfordshire by-election - Henley in 2008.  That saw another vigorous Lib Dem campaign (and a Labour lost deposit) and certain over-excited talk in the Lib Dems of snatching the seat from the Tories.  And there I remember the sense of disappointment when the result came in that the Lib Dems had marginally increased their share to 28%.

However - given the party's collapse in the Clegg years - 28% now would be (and would be seen as) something of a victory.  Mark Pack has a useful guide to judge the Lib Dem performance. 

30 September 2016

Plans for second (fourth) Forth rail bridge

The Beeb reports that plans - dating from 1945 - for a second rail bridge over the Firth of Forth have been recently uncovered in a Glasgow office.  Their provenance remains a mystery and Network Rail is asking for help.

But it shouldn't be described as a 'fourth Forth' bridge - given it dates from a time 18 years before the second one opened.

23 September 2016

Kingston Council consultation farce

Conservative run Kingston Council likes to consult its residents.  So much so it launched more than a dozen important consultations over the summer holidays.  This of course has the advantage of making it as difficult as possible for residents to participate.  And when your council leader enjoys a symbiotic relationship with some of the biggest property developers in the country, local residents just get in the way of maximising corporate profits.

So I was somewhat surprised to receive the other day a letter from the council asking for my views about a local housing issue.

The letter however includes a bizarre explanation of council incompetence, "A consultation process took place during April and May this year...Unfortunately residents in two roads, did not receive consultation letters... While this was rectified in August where 140 residents received a consultation pack, unfortunately 20 residents in York Road were still missed ...This has come to light very recently.  We appreciate that this is an unsatisfactory situation..."

One has to wonder just how seriously Kingston Council takes its duty to consult its council tax payers - especially as they have told neighbours they won't engage with them until after the decision is made.

25 August 2016

Farewell Sam Martinez

Sam Martinez - Hibs's oldest  fan died today aged 106.  Sam came to Edinburgh during the second world war from Honduras (now Belize) to help with the war effort and stayed ever since.

Image result for sam martinez cupSam was born just eight years after Hibs won the cup for a second time in 1902 and was delighted to be treated to a complimentary ticket by the club for its third triumph in the competition on 21st May 2016.

STV news has more.

29 July 2016

Friday favourite 143

Newsnight is carrying an interview with a now 60 year old John Lydon.  So just to make you feel old here is a 30 year old John with Rise...

25 July 2016

Paddy's MoreUnited lesson from non league football

Paddy Ashdown - along with several other Westminster luvvies - have launched MoreUnited a 'new movement setting out to change British politics'.  Using the power of the internet and social media it will crowd fund and provide volunteers for certain candidates that agree with its rather fuzzy centrist -yet progressive - values.

Caron Lindsay on Lib Dem Voice asks some pertinent questions about this project which Paddy and his ilk need to answer quite quickly if many Lib Dems aren't to think this is just a vanity project for an out of touch elite trying to 'get with it'.

But there are also some very interesting parallels with another crowd sourcing project that set out on a similar change prospectus.  That was MyFootballClub - complete with the same annoying mid compound word capitalisation. 

In November 2007 MyFootballClub - which had recruited 32,000 online members - took over Conference side Ebbsfleet United with the stated aim of transferring decision making from the traditional management to its membership.  Teams would be chosen by an on-line vote and transfer and financial deals were similarly subject to crowd sourcing.

Wikipedia reports, however, when the membership came up for renewal people lost interest with just 9,500 renewing for a second year and by 2010, just 3,500 were left and the club was relegated from the conference.  Although they were promoted back to the conference the following season, by 2013 MyFC had sold up to actual supporters of Ebbsfleet. The 950 current remaining members now sponsor Slough Town FC.

14 July 2016

This week's most honourable departure...

... goes to Liverpool supporting DJ and sports pundit Colin Murray who refuses to work for the Sun's owner Rupert Murdoch.  Murdoch's News Corp has just bought Talk Sport.

21 June 2016

Kid's last minute home made Euro plea

Seen in a north Kingston window this afternoon.  However, I'm still not sure it isn't about the European football...

17 June 2016

On guns and murder

While the murder of Jo Cox is deeply shocking, our thoughts should be with her young family.  But we shouldn't forget that this is not a unique event.  Stephen Timms was seriously assaulted at an advice surgery in 2010 as was Cheltenham Lib Dem MP, Nigel Jones in 2000 - where his assistant Andy Pennington was killed.

Andy was also an elected representive - a local councillor for Hester's Way ward - which has somewhat been forgotten in all the outpouring of grief in the Westminster bubble. 

The Guardian provides a history of attacks on UK MPs and it is not as rare as some might think.

But we should be grateful in this country - that despite the occasional outrage - we are relatively free from the sort of mass slaughter that is routine in the USA.  In this sobering map the outline of the States can be recognised just from the dots of mass killings since 2013.  Mass killings are defined as four or more deaths in a single incident.  More details here.

7 June 2016

Kingston Tory leader's Cannes flight mystery

Kingston's Tory Council Leader, Kevin Davis is determined to change the face of the Royal Borough with a series of  developments of increasing scale, height and numbers of luxury home and decreasing numbers of affordable homes for local people. 

Kingston's jet setting Council leader
While cutting youth centres and old folks' homes and putting up the council tax he has set up a £4m fund to encourage even more of his developer friends into the borough.  So it was of little surprise that he swanned off to Cannes in March for the annual property and booze fest that is MIPIM spending more than £4,000 of taxpayer's cash in the process.

So what did he get up to during his three day, four night Riviera junket?

According to my FoI request Cllr Davis attended three dinners courtesy of Scape Group, Countryside and the City of London Corporation.  He had drinks with the President of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a 'think tank' (whatever that may be) with the Mayor followed by lunch, drinks courtesy of Barrett and half an hour with ex England centre half Rio Ferdinand - who was apparently doing some sort of a double act with Housing Minister Brandon Lewis.  Strangely, Ferdinand appears to have no connection with property development whatsoever, so one can only imagine what the purpose of that meeting might have been.

To be fair to Cllr Davis, it wasn't all pleasure he also packed in a large number of meetings with the great and the good of the UK property scene including:
  • Countryside Properties - based in Brentwood, Essex
  • Berkeley Group - based in Cobham (one junction on the A3 from Kingston)
  • Tellon Capital - based in London W1
  • British Land - based in London W1 (and currently redeveloping a shopping centre 50 yards from Kingston's Guildhall)
  • Atkins Global - based in Chelmsford, Essex
  • Public Sector Plc - based in London N3
  • Hadley Property Group - based in Covent Garden
  • Bouygues Development - based in Canning Town
  • Thinking Place - based in Hull
  • St William Homes (Berkley) - based in SW8
  • Barratt London - based in Tower Hill
  • Transport for London - based in Victoria
  • U + I - based in Victoria
  • Anthology - based in London WC2
  • Buro Happold - based in London W1
  • Ktesius - based in London W1
  • Downing - based in Liverpool
  • Lend Lease - based in London NW1
  • Ocean Village - appears to be a marina in Southampton
  • Scape Group - based in Nottingham
One has to ask whether the same could have been achieved with a couple of zone 1-6 travel cards and a day return or two?

Which brings me neatly on to the most curious revelation - Cllr Davis appears to have forked out (from the public purse) £458.07 for a Nice to Cannes return flight. Now Cannes is a mere 17.5 miles from Nice airport and Cannes airport has no scheduled flights.  However there is a half-hourly helicopter service.

Azure Helicopter offer just such a service stating gushingly:
"Have you always wanted to make an entry in Cannes like a star? How about to land on the Croisette in a helicopter ? To mark the 2016 Film Festival and other events in Cannes ( MIPIM, CANNES LIONS FESTIVAL YACHTING, etc) AZUR HELICOPTER airline offers flights between Nice and Cannes in just 7 minutes, comfortably, and with stunning views on the Croisette!"
And at 160 Euro (+50 for a hold bag) each way the bill is spookily close to £458.07 once converted to good old British pounds.

According to the Cannes or Bust website the express bus takes less than an hour from Nice airport to Cannes and costs just 33 Euro return (or about 20 quid).

So did Cllr Davis 'make an entry in Cannes like a star'?  And did the poor old council tax payer stump up for it?  I think we should be told...

Edit - the kind people at the Kingston's Residents Alliance Facebook page have pointed out Ferdinand does indeed have a property connection through his initiative called the Legacy Foundation

3 June 2016

Friday favourite 142

It's been a while - but not as long as it has taken Hibs to win the Scottish Cup (which is the oldest football trophy in the world, by the way), so it's definitely time for a tune.

So here's some football fans celebrating winning it after 114 years.  It is of course the Friday favourite to end all Friday favourites...